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Encinitas Tries To Preserve Small Town Character

Encinitas City Council will decide tonight on the details of an initiative that would give citizens more control over growth and development. The coastal city wants to preserve its “funky” neighborhood character.

Encinitas wants to let the voters decide on proposed development projects with big increases in housing, beyond what their community plan allows.

As it is now, if four of the five city council members vote for a project, it can pass, even if it increases density beyond the limits in the plan. This has never actually happened, but as the amount of money it takes to win an election increases, some residents fear special interests could buy the council.

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Encinitas downtown Highway 101

The city is currently working on updating its citywide General Plan.

Mayor Teresa Barth said state mandates for affordable housing tend to result in higher density development.

“It’s really about changing the character of our community,” she said. “It’s transitioning into the future, but it should be a local decision, not a state decision.”

However, Barth said, the way the initiative is written, she fears it might tie the hands of future city councils in unintended ways. For example, a 30-foot height limit might supersede height limits in areas of city that have lower height limits now, such as Cardiff.

Also she said, since the California Coastal Commission must sign off on any changes to development plans along the coast, the city might end up with two separate sets of rules, at least for a while.

Barth plans to write an opposing argument on the initiative, with a promise to rewrite it for a later election, in a way that would have fewer unintended consequences.

Encinitas residents will vote on the initiative in a special election in June.

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